Geek out. I have been using this slang a lot. Many of us who have heard this expression know that it means to become a little bit obsessive about something (usually a hobby). Applying this to business problems, my argument is that business consultants and students need to harness that kind of enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity and dig deeper into the work, studies, and client recommendations. Let’s not just Google our way through life – coming up with the most basic answers. Boring. Superficial. Not your own thinking. When you stumble upon something that interests you – do the research, talk to some experts, ask “why”, and geek out on it. Become the mini-expert.
“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now” – Napolean Hill
Not enough new thinking. There is a real need for us to push our thinking past the obvious. In a world, where all data is so freely and easily accessible – data is not valuable. Thinking is valuable. Insights are valuable. A point of view is valuable. Slow thinking has become rare. In the same way it is nice to read long-form journalism which fairly analyzes and debates major issues, it’s a joy to see someone take pride in their work.
Consultants do good work – highly reliable, well-researched, super-logical, persuasive, and neat. There is a reason Marvin Bower (godfather of consulting, McKinsey) fashioned management consultants after lawyers. Formal, white collared, and precise. Nothing wrong with that. In fact that is good, but often times, it is not great.
Clients want great work. This is WOW factor. This is taking some part of your work, and layering in a spicy, or even pungent, point of view. Adding the special sauce. Going the extra mile. Not stopping at the “good enough” finish line, but lapping the course one more time because you have the runner’s high, full of endorphin.
- For excel, did you do the sensitivity analysis to see how much results change when you tweak the variables? Create the extra sheet of valuation comps because you were curious.
- For powerpoint, did you create the extra appendix pages for the 3-4 questions you KNOW they will ask? Create the graph in a different way (histogram this time?) in case it shows the data in a smarter way?
- For the presentation, did you practice to time the pauses and adjust your language? Do you record your presentations to listen / critique your public speaking?
- For the meeting, did you review the existing process flows or are you “winging it”
- For your team-mate’s email, did you think deeply on their questions, or did you zZzing back a few simple comments to check the “teamwork” box?
Geek – looking online, looks like the origins of this word are not that flattering. It comes from German and Dutch words meaning foolish, silly, or mad. Thinking through that. . .
Foolish – When you go 2-3 layers deeper into a cost model (than you are required by your client, boss, or professor), yes, some might call that foolish. “You are not maximizing your time.”
On the flip side, you now understand the cost drivers, sensitivity analysis, and implications 2x better than everyone else. You have become the mini-expert on that one small thing. Will you use that experience, learning, and self-confidence elsewhere in your career? Hell yes.
Silly – Yes, give yourself some liberty and room to be human. We are not business robots. We are not simply supply and demand curves. Know yourself, like yourself, follow some (not all) of your whims. If you listen to any of the founders of Honest Tea, Patagonia, Cliff Bar, Spanx, Zumba, Zaapos, Virgin, or Sam Adams, you quickly see that yes – silly, fortunate, lucky, serendipitous, present, available, open-minded, lateral thinking are keys to breakout success. Life is not a straight line.
“The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when he comes.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
Mad – There is a little truth to this also. For you to stand-out from the masses, to differentiate your product vs. all the “me-too” copy-cats, or to be a leader worth following, you need to be a little bit mad. Crazy enough to not try and please everyone. Crazy enough to believe in yourself, perhaps with other people don’t. Crazy enough to ask for help when you need it.
For readers of this blog, you will do B+ work anyways – that is how you are wired. You are resourceful and dependable. That is good enough. . .I know.
Do B+ work but find the spots were you completely geek out, and do A++++, futuristic, not-asked-for, bleeding edge, giving-it-away-for-free, geeking-out level, of surprise. Put some WOW factor back into the work,
As Seth Godin says, be an enthusiast.
“The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.” – Mark Twain